Two weeks into the Obama administration it is, in some very real sense, a pleasure to be done with the daily dose of Bush Derangement Syndrome which permeated not just the Left blogosphere, but most MSM coverage and even casual political discourse. It often seemed that pundits as well as ordinary voters were conducting a national contest to accumulate the most reasons to hate the President. Even those who agreed with some of the objections to the Bush administration found the whole tone unfair and tiresome. (Yes, yes, of course we all can’t wait for the new President.)
But the Hoover Institution’s Peter Berkowitz contends that we’re not really out of the woods yet:
Bush hatred and Obama euphoria — which tend to reveal more about those who feel them than the men at which they are directed — are opposite sides of the same coin. Both represent the triumph of passion over reason. Both are intolerant of dissent. Those wallowing in Bush hatred and those reveling in Obama euphoria frequently regard those who do not share their passion as contemptible and beyond the reach of civilized discussion. Bush hatred and Obama euphoria typically coexist in the same soul. And it is disproportionately members of the intellectual and political class in whose souls they flourish.
I think things are not all that bad and indeed have improved. There is, I would argue, hope for a break from political absolutism and Presidential Derangement Syndrome.
The President’s job approval ratings are high, but not astronomically so for the first couple of weeks, suggesting that at least some of the populace is evaluating his actual performance. And the media coverage of his stimulus plan has begun to make clear just how larded up it is. It is not as if the entire country is in a trance. Reality is indeed permeating.
Sure the President’s liberal defenders, including the mainstream media, are quick to rebuff any hint of criticism. But at least the arguments going back and forth generally concern the merits of the President’s plans, not his psychological make up or familial relations. We quickly forget how bizarre the political dialogue became in the Bush years, when foreign policy was thought to be a function of the President’s relationship with his father, and poor syntax was ascribed to a learning disability or drinking relapse. We are, in short, at least back on the planet earth when it comes to political debate. (And yes, conservatives deserve much of the credit for sticking to the subject matter at hand.)
So, certainly Obama fans could be more circumspect. But progress in political culture, as in all things, is incremental. And I think it’s safe to say that the tone of political debate has taken a turn for the better. So far, at least.